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Bullpen Report: Finding a little relief

Senior Fantasy Writer
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I've moved enough in the past decade to know that it stinks. The packing, lifting, unpacking -- there's no real fun element to it. But there is one thing I look forward to every time: opening up the box of "Miscellany." For me, it's usually things like playing cards, some old CDs, stickers featuring DC superheroes, maybe some type of Star Wars thing I won on ebay, and a bunch of other random fun stuff that I don't really need to own, but enjoy.

So in the spirit of the Miscellany box, I give you this week's Bullpen Report. Just a bunch of stuff thrown into a box that doean't fall into any specific category.

Rex Brothers is a must-add

With Rafael Betancourt likely done for the season, Rex Brothers will re-assume closing duties in Colorado. The 25-year-old lefty has a 1.51 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the season, with 11 saves and a 9.4 K/9. Brothers won't have the kind of "run him up the rankings!" ascent that Kenley Jansen got when he was named closer, but the upside is very real -- Brothers can keep his ERA and WHIP low while racking up saves and getting about a strikeout per inning.

Tommy Hunter is closing in on relevance

We've seen this before -- an incumbent closer trips up a little bit, rights himself in the 7th and 8th innings, then returns and is dominant for the rest of the season. The best example I can think of is Brandon League in 2011. Currently, we're looking at something similar from Jim Johnson, just much later in the season (League would always run into trouble in May, for some reason).

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Enter Tommy Hunter, a converted starter who is enjoying a 2.63 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in his first full season as a reliever. The "throw-in" in the Chris Davis trade with the Rangers, Hunter got the save for the Orioles on Wednesday, ahead of deadline acquisition Francisco Rodriguez.

If Johnson stays out of the saves mix for any amount of time, Hunter -- who saw his average fastball velocity rise from 91.6 mph last season to 95.8 this year -- will likely be the next in line. He comes with some risk (most notably, Johnson reclaiming his job), but is worth a gamble in AL-only formats and Roto leagues where a team is badly in need of saves.

Joel Peralta has taken the lead in holds

With Mark Melancon now closing games for the Pirates, his lead in the holds category was bound to disappear; Melancon is now tied for third in the majors with 26 holds. Your new leader is Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta, with 31. David Robertson is in second with 30.

Peralta and Robertson's hold totals actually have some significance -- the single-season leader in holds is Luke Gregerson, with 40. Peralta and Robertson both play for teams that are winning, meaning that, with a very good month, they could challenge the record. It's not likely -- for as good as the Yankees have been lately, Robertson has just six holds so far this month, and only two pitchers have double-digit holds in any month this season (Jesse Crain and Peralta, both in May) -- but it might be a fun category to keep an eye on as the season winds down.

Your hold leaders for August are...

Tyler Clippard, Nationals, 7 holds
Yoervis Medina, Mariners, 7
Joe Smith, Indians, 7
Ronald Belisario, Dodgers, 6
Matt Belisle, Rockies, 6
J.J. Hoover, Reds, 6
David Robertson, Yankees, 6
Jared Burton, Twins, 5
David Carpenter, Braves, 5
Tim Collins, Royals, 5
Charlie Furbush, Mariners, 5

Strikeout Kings

While the list of August leaders in K/9 boasts many familiar names, there are a few that may catch the attention of Roto owners looking to lower WHIP and ERA while keeping Ks up. Or even for the owner in a Categories league where K/9 is a category.

August leaders, K/9 (min. 5 IP)

Francisco Rodriguez, Orioles, 16.43 K/9
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers, 15.43
Danny Farquhar, Mariners, 14.46
Aroldis Chapman, Reds 14.40
Rich Hill, Indians 14.40
Charlie Leesman, White Sox, 14.40
Grant Balfour, Athletics 13.50
Mike Gonzalez, Brewers, 13.50
David Carpenter, Braves, 13.50
Craig Kimbrel, Braves, 13.09

Top of the SPARP heap

For those of you new to Bullpen Report, SPARP is an acronym for "Starting Pitcher As a Relief Pitcher" -- one of those Kris Medlen types who can be plugged into the RP slot in standard H2H formats to take advantage of the points windfall from starters. Over the last 21 days, there have been some interesting SPARP performers in the Fantasy game. The top SPARPs in that span:

Alex Wood, Braves, 79.5 Points in the last 21 days
Andrew Albers, Twins, 73.5
Kris Medlen, Braves, 69.5
Bruce Chen, Royals, 65.6
Tyson Ross, Padres, 63.5
Joe Kelly, Cardinals, 62.5
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners, 60.5
Andre Rienzo, White Sox, 52.5
Tony Cingrani, Reds, 52
Andrew Cashner, Padres, 46.5

I know it's the easy way out, but Iwakuma is probably the most attractive of this group, followed by Wood, who still has plenty of innings left on his arm this season. Medlen is 3 1/3 innings away from equaling his total from last year (which was also a career-high) and hasn't started a game since Aug. 13. He also averaged seven hits per game over his last eight starts. Cingrani has only thrown 129 innings so far this season, which is still below last year's total of 146.

Rienzo is probably the most intriguing of the group. While he doesn't have these blow-you-away minor league numbers, he had been good the last four seasons, and carried a 9.7 K/9 over 543 2/3 minor league innings. Before his call-up, he went on a nice run of games, lowering his WHIP and ERA. And through his first five major league starts, Rienzo has a 3.56 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. It shouldn't cause anyone to run out and add him, but Rienzo could be a shrewd add in a deeper league for his two-start week.

One last thing ...

With Steve Delabar on the DL, I went ahead and grabbed Brett Cecil in a couple AL-only leagues where I could use saves. Cecil, like Tommy Hunter, has found a new life in relief, and after a rocky July has come back around to his early-season self in August, with a 2.57 ERA and 10 strikeouts in seven innings.

Couple this with Casey Janssen's 7.94 ERA in August (and 5.40 ERA dating back to the start of July), and you have a very speculative play on late-season saves, should Janssen need to be rested and Delabar stays on the DL.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS .

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Player News
Rockies GM: We will continue to exercise patience with Jon Gray
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:11 pm ET) With the Rockies in last place in the NL West and their chances of making the playoffs fading, calling up starting pitcher prospect Jon Gray could be an option to provide a spark and keep them in the playoff hunt. It seems Rockies manager Walt Weiss would be in favor of it.

"At some point, especially if we're in striking distance, yeah, you want to use all your weapons, absolutely," Weiss said of bringing up Gray, per The Denver Post. "No, I don't think it's early."

However, general manager Jeff Bridich isn't as eager to bring up the 2013 first-round pick, who has has logged 252 innings in the minors.

"Jon Gray is doing a great job right now of learning lessons and evolving at the Triple-A level," Bridich said. "So there are things that he needs to do and will continue to do. And we'll continue to exercise patience with him."

The top-100 prospect is 3-5 with a 4.88 ERA in 16 outings (15 starts) at Triple-A this season. He is 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA in his last 12 games.


Red Sox outright pitcher Zeke Spruill to Triple-A
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:48 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Zeke Spruill, who was designated for assignment Friday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday.

Report: Red Sox send P Steven Wright back to Pawtucket
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:19 pm ET) The Red Sox on Sunday dispatched knuckleballer Steven Wright back to Triple-A Pawtucket one day after promoting him, multiple league sources have told the Boston Globe.

Wright did not pitch during his latest stay. He owns a 3-2 record and 4.15 ERA in 11 outings for the Red Sox this season.


GM: Pirates have no plans to demote RF Gregory Polanco
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco is batting a disturbing .148 (12-for-81) over the last month, but if he's going to work his way out of his slump, he's going to do it with Pittsburgh.

The team has no plans to demote Polanco so he can work on his hitting.

"We believe [he] is going to be a quality major league player but there are growing pains," general manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "And [a demotion] hasn't even been a conversation."

Polanco, who has been benched often against left-handers and sat against Cleveland righty Danny Salazar on Sunday, owns a .231 average that is at its lowest point since May 25.


Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli struggling mentally as well
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) The struggles of Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli are starting to take a toll on him mentally.

"I'm on what's supposed to be a winning team and I'm not producing," he complained to the Boston Globe. "...If you're not mentally frustrated, there's something wrong. But I come here every day to work and try to fix it ... I wake up every day thinking that today's the day. I'm just going to keep working, keep doing what I've done in my career, to get out of this thing."

Only Napoli and Yankees second baseman Stephen Drew own a batting average under .200 and on-base percentage under .300 among 116 qualifying regulars in the majors. Napoli owns a slash line of .192/.294/.358.

And it's not getting any better. He is on skids of 2-for-27 and 5-for-46. He has only one RBI in 15 games since June 19.


Report: Teams believe Braves could deal CF Cameron Maybin
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:36 pm ET) Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin has never achieved at the plate anything close to what he has recorded this season. And other teams believe Atlanta might be looking to sell high and trade him by July 31, according to ESPN MLB Insider Buster Olney.

Maybin has been hot in July with nine hits in 24 at-bats, including two doubles and a home run, to break a 6-for-35 skid. He boasts a slash line on the year of .294/.363/.416. All three numbers represent career-bests.


Royals SP Kris Medlen goes six innings in fourth rehab start
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:27 pm ET) Royals starting pitcher Kris Medlen (elbow) took the hill Sunday for his fourth start on a rehab assignment. It was his second start with Triple-A Omaha.

Medlen allowed two runs on five hits and one walk in six innings. He struck out two during his first win in four starts. 

The six innings were the most the right-hander has thrown since beginning his rehab assignment June 19. He also threw 81 pitches (50 strikes), which was also the most he has thrown on his rehab assignment.

Medlen still dealt with some control issues Sunday as he hit a batter. It is the fourth batter he has hit in four starts.


Pirates hopeful prospect Jameson Taillon can pitch in September
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:25 pm ET) Pirates premier pitching prospect Jameson Taillon could return to action in September if his recovery from hernia surgery, which he is scheduled to undergo this week, goes smoothly.

"We'll see how the recovery goes," general manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It is two months-ish. I mean, we have been told it is roughly two months until he is ready to compete."


Rays 1B James Loney hits safely in first three games off DL
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:22 pm ET) So far, so good for Rays first baseman James Loney in his return from a fractured middle left finger, which forced him to miss six weeks. He has hit safely in all three games since he returned to the lineup Friday.

Loney drove in two runs on a single in the first inning Sunday against the Yankees, giving Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead. They won the game 8-1.

He is batting .308 (4 for 13) with three RBI, two runs and two strikeouts since his activation from the disabled list.


Cardinals LF Matt Holliday weighing ASG participation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) That invitation Cardinals veteran left fielder Matt Holliday received from the fans to start the All-Star Game? He might just have to reply, "thanks, but no thanks."

Holliday was voted in, but he's still dealing with a quad injury that has kept him sidelined for nearly a month. The news, however, is not all bad.

"It's getting better," he told MLB Network Radio.

Holliday added that he will take the next couple days to decide if he can participate.


 
 
 
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